Welcome back to the top 100 horror film countdown! We got things kicked off in earnest earlier in the week with #100-51. But now it’s time to get serious and delve into what I believe are the top 50 horror films of all time. To recount, I used a three prong ranking system (historical significance, scare factor and enjoyability) to try to corral the films into some semblance of a list. So without further ado, here are films #50-41.
50. The Cabin in the Woods – What better way to start than with a superb deconstruction of the genre that also functions as a great horror movie. This Drew Goddard directed film manages to walk the tightrope of being a satire and a truly scary movie. This film is eminently rewatchable considering that it plays on all the horror tropes while never losing sight of the story it’s trying to tell.
49. When A Stranger Calls (1979) – “It’s coming from inside the house!” A holy s$#! moment if there ever was one, this film terrified me and probably set the stage for why I love The Strangers so much. WASC is just one in a long line of “home invasion” type thrillers but it sets itself up by taking it’s time and ramping up the dread to such a palpable level. It’s one thing to know your adversary but when they’re seemingly invisible…even more terrifying.
48. Diabolique – Murder is not for the faint of heart, as a character in the movie finds out. Two women, the wife and mistress of a boorish man, conspire to murder him. They execute their plan and dump him in the school pool, but the body comes up missing. Where this film goes from there I won’t reveal here but suffice to say the ending is…something you don’t want spoiled. (There’s actually a title card at the end of the film saying don’t spoil the ending.) The only reason this film is not higher on this list was because the pared down aesthetic and matter of fact storytelling could have used some more bold imagery or sound design, but it’s still a great film nonetheless.
47. Funny Games (1997) – Horror movies work the best when they engage the audience. But there are few movies that truly make you truly complicit in their hostility than Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. By the end of the film you just feel used and sleazy, having watched two sadistic boys torture a family. There’s nothing remotely comforting about this film, even when the family is given a reprieve, Haneke throws us back into the gauntlet to be toyed with some more.
46. The Host – Monster movies have been on the wane lately, but luckily for us this Korean film delivers the shocks and thrills in spades. I dare someone to think of a scene in an American horror movie that was as #thrillingscaryomgIcan’tlookwilltheypullthisoff as when the young protagonist has to run on the monster’s back to try to escape. Great mix of comedy and drama, that never lets up until the very last frame.
45. Let the Right One In – More than likely the sweetest horror film on the list, this was a great exploration of how vampire stories can work in a modern setting. This film isn’t terrible scary but it’s unsettling that the main characters are so young, well one technically isn’t. The setting of a snowy Swedish town is perfect for the gory, tense story underneath.
44. American Psycho – Subsequent viewings of this film and reading the book in college have removed most of the shock value from this film, but it’s still one sick, sick film. Christian Bale gives one of the best performances of his career in this pretty great adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel. While it does tone down many of the more graphic scenes (not much however) this movie sears into your brain like the colors of the perfect business card.
43. The Fly (1986) – Many kids grow up wanting to have the power to shape shift into animals (blame Animorphs, Twilight or just how cool this seems). However this movie shows that humans and animals weren’t meant to mix. This is a Cronenberg feature so naturally this movie is gross (that vomit scene ick), but what makes this movie so great is the chemistry between Gena Davis and Jeff Goldblum. The makeup work by Chris Walas here is outstanding, helping make Goldblum’s transformation all the more terrifying.
42. Vampyr – Probably the easiest film to rewatch (73 mins long!), this movie isn’t so much of a jump scare fest as it is a thoroughly composed vision of terror. Made in the 30s, this film relies more on the visuals, with some stunning cinematography, to tell the story about a town under the curse of the vampire. This film should be required viewing for today’s horror film makers that you don’t need overwhelming CGI or people jumping out of nowhere to have a good horror movie. Sometimes just being washed over with mood is good enough to keep you awake for several nights.
41. The Ring – This is a film that is so hauntingly slow and methodical in its pacing, I was nearly bored to sleep half way through this film everyone around me kept dubbing as the scariest movie they’d ever seen. But then we visited a lighthouse, a creepy home, and a well…I became enthralled. Though the restraint and pacing of the film give me problems, they enable the shocks to really deliver like the closet reveal you see in the banner or how absurd it is that whenever the girl wants to kill someone it takes her FOREVER to get out of the tv. It’s a movie that takes a while to really get going by pays off by the end.
When he's not enduring Shade Samurai training from Victoria Grayson, you can find Terence spends his time being an avid watcher of television, Criterion film collector, Twitter addict, and awards season obsessive. Opinionated but open minded, ratchet but with class, Terence holds down the fort as the producer of the Power Hour podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @LeNoirAuteur.